The construction sector may avoid a post-Olympics slump by shifting its focus to energy projects, the government said yesterday. About 1 billion euros will be spent over the next three years extending and upgrading the natural gas network, building cross-border connections and extending city networks. The electricity sector is also going to make big investments in construction, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas told reporters yesterday in a press conference also attended by the top management of the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA). Sioufas said that the DEPA board had agreed upon, on June 8, the immediate construction of local gas networks in eleven cities, seven of them located in the northern provinces of Macedonia and Thrace (Alexandroupolis, Drama, Katerini, Kavala, Kilkis, Komotini and Serres). Three others are in central Greece (Halkida, Lamia and Thiva) and one, Corinth, is in the Peloponnese. The total budget for these projects is estimated at 54.9 million euros. Construction of the gas networks will begin in 2005 and be completed by 2007. Three new regional gas providers (Eastern Central Greece-Evia, Central Macedonia and Eastern Macedonia-Thrace) will be founded. The bidding process will begin soon. DEPA also plans to extend the main high-pressure gas pipeline toward Corinth and Patras in order to facilitate the future construction of local networks in the Peloponnese. DEPA, together with the regional gas provider for Thessaly, have agreed to undertake a joint preliminary study for the construction of a local gas network in the cities of Karditsa and Trikala. Other local projects involve the construction of a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal in Crete and promoting use of natural-gas burning buses in several cities. Deputy Development Minister Giorgos Salagoudis said that construction of the pipeline connecting the gas networks of Turkey and Greece will begin simultaneously in both countries on December 1. The final feasibility study for the project, which will bring natural gas from the Caspian Sea to Greece, will be ready by the end of September, Salagoudis said. He added that the European Union has prioritized the provision of funds for the extension of this pipeline to Italy. Besides the gas pipeline, an oil pipeline connecting Greece and Turkey will be built next to the Egnatia Highway in northern Greece, as agreed recently by the prime ministers of the two countries, Costas Karamanlis and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Salagoudis did not provide details for the project, but said that Greece has not abandoned the idea of a pipeline connecting the Bulgarian port of Burgas with Alexandroupolis and carrying Russian oil. Sioufas said that construction of the first private electricity-production unit will begin next year and added that he signed, in a single day, 23 permits for wind parks. Two of them will be built by Spanish firm GAMESA.